The view of Judaism is that humankind has the unique ability to synthesize the physical and the spiritual elements of life. Hence, Jewish law requires a person to recite a blessing over food they are about to eat. What that blessing is, depends on the type of food. The wording of the blessing greatly enhances a person’s connection to the particular (often amazing) source of the food.

The first commercial hydroponics farm was established on December 5, 1935 in Montebello, California. Jewish Treats asks whether a vegetable, a fruit of the ground, is still a vegetable if it does not grow in the ground. Produce grown through hydroponics sit in water and absorb the necessary nutrients from a liquid source, while, similarly, produce grown via aeroponics are “fed” via a nutrient-rich mist. Neither method actually produces anything from the ground.

While research into hydroponics has been going on since the Middle Ages, the actual use of the technology began only in the mid-20th century. For Jews, this led to a number of questions such as whether hydroponic plants could be grown and/or harvested during the Shmittah (Sabbatical) year in Israel (yes) and whether it is necessary to wait three years to harvest fruit from a hydroponic fruit plan, (the mitzvah of orlah, and no), as is required for fruit grown from the earth.

The most common question, however, is what blessing should be recited over such produce. The blessing recited over most vegetables is borei pri ha’ah’dama –blessed is [God] Who created the fruit of the land. Since hydroponic/aeroponic plants do not grow in the ground, this blessing would be inaccurate. The general opinion is that, if a person knows that he/she is eating produce from hydroponics, the blessing to be recited is sheh’ha’kohl nee’yeh bid’varo,–blessed is God by Whose word all things came to be. If the source of the produce is unknown, a person may assume that the regular ha’ah’dama blessing would apply. These halachic opinions, however, are not unanimous and a local rabbi should always be consulted for practical application.

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